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McLaren Formula 1

Reprinted from Racing Line August 1997

Formula One – hard and unforgiving

It was a great raucous lump of a power unit, topped by Hilborn fuel injection intake trumpets which would do credit to the ventilators on an ocean liner, and tailed by high-level ‘snake-pit’ exhausts straight from a Royal Artillery arsenal.

The McLaren marque made its Formula One debut on May 22, 1966, in the Monaco Grand Prix, Bruce McLaren lined up his little team’s ‘Mallite" monocoque car – M2B chassis ‘2’ – on tenth fastest spot on the starting grid. This chunky Robin Herd-designed challenger packed a hefty engine in its rear bay, an Indy Ford 4-cam V8 reduced from its Speedway-standard 4.2 litres capacity to the contemporary Formula One limit of 3-litres. It was a great raucous lump of a power unit, topped by Hilborn fuel injection intake trumpets which would do credit to the ventilators on an ocean liner, and tailed by high-level ‘snake-pit’ exhausts straight from a Royal Artillery arsenal…
Bruce admitted that the engine’s greatest success was in being by far the noisiest thing running around Monaco. The raucous echoes it set up between the cake-icing buildings of the old town threatened not only the occupants’ eardrums but their window panes.

Unfortunately this maiden McLaren Formula One race ended not in success but after nine slowish laps with an oil leak into the cockpit and onto the road. The little McLaren Team – headed by Bruce himself, Teddy Mayer and Tyler Alexander – realised that their modified Ford engine was over-ported, delivering barely 300 horsepower across a painfully narrow rev band, to which its four-speed GT40-type ZF gearbox was poorly suited. Bruce admitted immediately: "We’re going to have to make some fairly drastic moves in the engine room…"

He found a stand-in power unit in the neat shape of Count Volpi’s new Serenissima V8, made in Italy to a design by Ing. Alberto Massimino whose previous credits included the Lancia-Ferraris of 1956-57 and the front engined classic Maserati 250F GP cars. Serenissima had just launched this carburetted V8 as a sports car engine, but Count Volpi now fancied F1 exposure. McLaren just needed a workable engine. The race M2B chassis’ rear engine-bay horns were modified to accommodate this Italian unit’s low-level side exhausts in contrast to the centre-exhaust Ford for which it had been tailor-made, and with little more than 260 horsepower Bruce took the reassembled machine to the Belgian GP, at Spa. Formula One racing was as hard and unforgiving then as it is now. After refusing for hours to start and run cleanly during practice, the new V8 finally ran its bearings after its first exploratory half lap. With no spare there was no alternative but to non-start.

Bruce and his young intended team-mate Chris Amon then had the joy of victory for Ford at Le Mans, but an F1 entry in the French GP at Rheims was scratched before the lone M2B-Serenissima reappeared in the British event at Brands Hatch. This time the Italian V8 proved reliable. The race started on a damp track and Bruce – on wet weather tyres – made a superb start and ran briefly in the top six on merit. As the road dried he dropped back, but then profited from retirements to inherit sixth place at the finish – scoring his new McLaren marque’s first World Championship point.

At Zandvoort the following weekend for the Dutch GP the Serenissima engine failed, causing another non-start, and thereafter the F1 programme was set aside pending adequate development of the 3-litre Indy Ford V8 engine. It re-emerged in the test-prototype M2B – chassis ‘1’ – in the lucrative United States GP at Watkins Glen, and there Bruce finished fifth by surviving another rate of attrition – McLaren Motor Racing’s second two points were in the bag. But mechanical disaster then followed in the season-ending Mexican GP, as the engine disintegrated after 40 race laps …

Bruce studied alternatives for 1967, and became BRM’s first customer for a Formula One version of a new 2-cam V12 engine they were developing primarily for sports car racing. A new McLaren M5A monocoque chassis design was laid down for this engine, but BRM would plainly be late in delivery so for the interim a little F1 hybrid works McLaren was built up instead.

This car – the McLaren BRM M4B – was based upon a Formula 2 production design intended for the new 1600cc Formula 2 class then poised for launch in ’67. An initial batch of ten of these basic Cosworth FVA 4 cylinder engined F2/Formula B cars was being laid down by Lambretta-Trojan as part of their production agreement with the McLaren team. Now the works F1 hybrid car for early ’67 was produced by modifying its rear bay to accept a 2.1 litre Tasman BRM V8 engine, delivering around 280bhp – fitting long range pannier fuel tanks to provide GP distance range – and then ballasting the reassembled little car to meet the minimum weight.

This handsomely compact single-seater was then finished in the team’s brick-red sports car livery. Bruce and Teddy Mayer were continually changing their minds about the right colour for their cars as you will see on these pages. The 1966 F1 car had been painted white with a green stripe, partly as a distinctive stand-in for the Phantom ‘Nomura’ F1` car required by MGM who were filming John Frankenheimer’s ‘Grand Prix’ epic around the circuits. Now the new McLaren M4B was to be a rich red and in this livery it made its debut – Bruce driving – in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, finished fourth in heat one but then its engine broke due to a missed gear in Heat Two. Fifth places then followed in two more of the traditional non-Championship season opening F1 races at Oulton Park and Silverstone, and then to Monaco.

There, the little M4B was just about tailor-made for the tight street circuit, and but for its battery running flat – forcing a dramatic pit stop – Bruce could well have finished second behind fellow Kiwi Denny Hulme’s victorious Repco Brabham. Some of the spirit of Formula One in those days is typified by the pit stop as Bruce believed his misfire problem was fuel pressure and bawled as much at the crew. But Jack Brabham – a rival of course but out of the race by that time – had come into the pit and he was shouting "it’s your battery – it’s your battery!"

As Bruce wrote: Good old Jack. It was the battery and we quickly whipped another one on. He rejoined and finished fourth – three further championship points … thanks in part to a rival team chief!

Unfortunately, the M4B was then badly damaged on lap two of the Dutch GP at Zandvoort as Bruce went off on spilled oil in the fast Huzaren Viak corner. After the damage had been repaired he was testing the M4B at Goodwood when it caught fire out on the circuit, and he could do little other than watch it burn to the waterline. The McLaren team’s first forays into Formula One had shown promise, had accumulated six World Championship points, but left great room for improvement. And that would surely come …

Notes:

The interim F2-based BRM-powered car (the M4) and one-off BRM V12 (M5) kept the team in F1 before they gained access to the Ford Cosworth DFV.

With the M7 the team made leaps and bounds and became a force to be reckoned with in the F1 community.

The first GP win for the team came in 1968 when Bruce McLaren won the Belgian GP at the wheel of the Ford-Cosworth powered M7A racing car.

MODEL TIMELINE:

M5A  1967/68

The true 1967 McLaren Formula 1 car, the one off M5 was late starter due to delays with its BRM V12 engine. Its first race was the Canadian GP and was a strong second till the battery had to be replaced during the race.

Chassis: Aluminium alloy panelled monocoque formed over mild steel bulkheads with long pontoons at the rear to support the V12 engine.

Suspension: Single top link with radius arm, lower wishbone, anti-roll bar and outboard coil spring/shock units in front, and outboard coil spring/shock units at rear. McLaren cast magnesium wheels, 13 x 8½ fronts and 15 x 12 rear.

Brakes: Lockheed discs and calipers all around.

Body: Formed by monocoque sides apart from fibreglass nose cone and cockpit surround.

Engine: 3-litre BRM V12 with Borg & Beck clutch and Hewland DG 5-speed transaxle.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 96 inches, front track 58 inches, rear track 58 inches.

M7A  1968/69

Robin Herd had a guiding hand with the design of the M7A, it was the team’s first Cosworth-Ford powered Formula 1 car. Three M7As were built to be driven by Bruce and Denny Hulme; the third was the team's spare. This was Robin Herd's first McLaren design and in the interests of accessibility, they had a bathtub-type monocoque which terminated behind the rear cockpit bulkhead, using the engine’s crankcase as a fully stressed rear chassis member.

Chassis: Monocoque with light aluminium alloy panelling over steel bulkheads, using the engine as a stressed section aft of the cockpit, carrying rear suspension loads through a yoke over the gearbox and plates bolted beneath it.

Suspension: Single top link with radius arm, bottom wishbone, anti-roll bar and outboard coil spring/shock units in front. Single top links, reverse lower wishbones, twin radius arms and coil spring/shock units at rear. McLaren cast magnesium wheels, 15 x 10 front and 15 x 15 rear.

Brakes: Lockheed 17/3P calipers with 11.66-inch diameter discs all around.

Body: Detachable fibreglass nose with separate top panel and cockpit surround. Engine cover sometimes used with various wings and spoiler arrangements.

Engine: Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 with 5-speed Hewland DG300 transaxle.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 94 inches, front track 58 inches, rear track 57 inches, cockpit width 28 inches, weight 1140 pounds.

M7B  1969

The M7B started as an M7A-3 fitted with broad pannier style fuel tanks at the beginning of the 1969 season as a research vehicle to test weight distribution and give room for the adoption of a four-wheel-drive system. It was not very successful and was sold to Colin Crabbe's Antique Automobiles Racing team for Vic Elford to drive. Apart from the panniers, its specification was little different from the standard M7A's.

M7C  1969

While the M7A type bathtub chassis were tough and accessible, they lacked some of the torsional rigidity achieved in the 1968 Formula A/5000 cars. Consequently one F1 car was built using a full "up and over" monocoque chassis identical to the M10A 5-litre cars and the machine, known as M7C-1, was Bruce's personal car in the 1969 F1 season. In general specification it was similar to the M7A cars.

M7D  1970

Team McLaren built this car in association with Autodelta early in 1970 to accept one of their Alfa Romeo T33 V8 engines. The new chassis followed the two year old M7 series design but was two inches longer.

M9A  1969

McLaren Racing's Jo Marquart's experimental design employed four-wheel-drive during the 69 season. The cars used a Cosworth-Ford engine turned back to front driving through to a McLaren-designed 4wd transmission. Despite exhaustive testing the car was raced only once and as with other manufacturers, 4wd projects were abandoned.

M14A  1970

Three 1970 Formula 1 cars were built at the start of the season. The design team of Bruce, Gordon Coppuck and Jo Marquart had made several important innovations. The most notable was to mount the rear brakes inboard in an effort to save unsprung weight.

Chassis: Full monocoque with aluminium and magnesium panelling bonded to fabricated steel bulkheads, terminating behind the rear cockpit bulkhead and using the engine as a fully stressed chassis member.

Suspension: Single top link with radius arm, lower wishbone, anti-roll bar and outboard coil spring/shock units in front. Single top link, reversed lower wishbone, twin radius arms and outboard coil spring/shock units at rear. McLaren cast magnesium wheels, 15 x 11 front and 15 x 16 rear.

Brakes: Lockheed ventilated discs all around, 11.66-inch diameter front and 10.90-inch diameter rear, mounted inboard.

Body: Formed by monocoque sides with detachable fibreglass nose cone and cockpit surrounds.

Engine: Cosworth-Ford DFV 3-litre V8 with Hewland DG300 5-speed transaxle.

Dimensions: Wheelbase 95 inches, front track 62.4 inches, rear track 60 inches, length 156 inches, weight 1180 pounds.

M14D  1970

This was a one-off car built halfway through the 1970 season to accept an Alfa-Romeo T33 V8 engine as with the M7A.

Chassis: Full monocoque with aluminium and magnesium panelling bonded to fabricated steel bulkheads, terminating behind the rear cockpit bulkhead and using the engine as a fully stressed chassis member.

Suspension: Single top link with radius arm, lower wishbone, anti-roll bar and outboard coil spring/shock units in front. Single top link, reversed lower wishbone, twin radius arms and outboard coil spring/shock units at rear. McLaren cast magnesium wheels, 15 x 11 front and 15 x 16 rear.

Brakes: Lockheed ventilated discs all around, 11.66-inch diameter front and 10.90-inch diameter rear, mounted inboard

Body: Formed by monocoque sides with detachable fibreglass nose cone and cockpit surrounds.

Engine: Alfa-Romeo T33 V8

Dimensions: Wheelbase 95 inches, front track 62.4 inches, rear track 60 inches, length 156 inches, weight 1180 pounds.

M19A  1971

The Formula 1 car for 1971 again was powered by a Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine. The car is a "coke bottle" shape. The design team was headed by Ralph Bellamy.

Chassis: Aluminium monocoque

Suspension: Front suspension is by a rocker arm and lower link, and rear suspension is by top link and radius rods and a reversed lower wishbone. Koni shock absorbers, McLaren rack and pinion steering

Brakes: Lockheed brakes

Body:

Engine: Borg & Beck clutch and Hewland or BRD drive shafts are used

Dimensions: Weight is 1230 pounds and fuel capacity 45 gallon, wheelbase of 100 inches, a front track of 63 inches and a rear track of 62 inches. Front wheels are 13 inches in diameter with 10-inch rims and the rear wheels are 15 inches in diameter with 16-inch rims.

M23  1973

The 1973 deformable structure works Formula 1 car won the 1974 and 1976 Worlds championships.. This is believed to be one of the classic Grand Prix cars of all time.

M26  1976/77/78



This works car was penned by Gordon Coppuck and campaigned during the 76 -78 Formula 1 series.

M27

This car, the replacement for the M26, was shelved. It was based on non ground effects.

M28  1979

1979 saw the year of ground effects in Formula 1. This car was not a success.

M29  1979

This works car was a hasty Williams copy ground effect car replacing the M28.

M30  1980

This year saw the Formula 1 works car with advanced ground effects, intended to revive McLaren’s competitiveness.

 

 

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